(AllHipHop Features) To describe L’Orange as just a music producer is to diminish his value as an artist. While he does craft musical tracks, the work that L’Orange creates are actually visual tales captured by the ear. He is closer to a filmmaker than a musician. Forget producer; call him a screenwriter of sound.
L’Orange’s next film album, The Orchid Days, is produced and mixed entirely by the North Carolina native. The instrumental project also co-stars Blu, Homeboy Sandman, Jeremiah Jae, Eric Lane, Billy Woods, and features a special appearance by Erik Todd Dellums (The Wire, Fallout 3).
Like all of L’Orange’s albums, The Orchid Days was inspired by his poems. Some of the Mello Music Group member’s writings spawned the love story that is at the center of the project.
AllHipHop.com spoke with L’Orange about his cinematic LP and more. Go further into the mind of the audio auteur.
What’s the meaning behind your name?
That name was actually my nickname in high school, and it kind of stuck around with me. At that time in my life I wasn’t necessarily looking to things I identified with. I was looking at things that I admired. The color orange was kind of everything that I’m not, ironically. It was vibrant, energetic, attractive, and loving – all these things that I admired in people and in nature. Things that I wasn’t really sure that I exemplified, so it was a color I surrounded myself with. Along the way someone gave me the nickname and it stuck. When it came time to start making music it was the logical step.
At what point did you start making music?
I actually grew up writing. That was what both my parents did, and they both encouraged me to do that. From the time I was a little kid I was always writing. I found this attraction to poetry, because both my parents wrote poetry. When I was about ten was the first time I picked up an instrument.
I started playing bass, and I really loved the way it tied together rhythm and melody. That combined with my love of poetry kind of led me to Hip Hop. In a lot of ways, the vocal rhythms that tie in the melody and rhythm of the track mirror the bass which is why bass is so important in Hip Hop as well. Then I moved to drums, guitar, and little bit of the keys. I started producing when I was 16. I made a lot of really bad music for a long time.
Do you remember the first record you ever sampled?
It was either Billie Holiday’s “All of Me” or Roy Ayers. I don’t remember the track, but I remember I had this Roy Ayers joint. I only had like five records in my apartment, because I didn’t know what I was doing. It was just this random assortment of records, and there was this Roy Ayers record that I really liked. Actually, I would love to go back and flip that joint again, kind of come full circle.
What is it about those Jazz sounds and sounds from 1950’s that makes you lean toward using those records for samples?
First of all, that’s the music that I gravitated to for some reason or another while my parents were flipping through car stations. Whenever I got my hand on the radio as a kid I would always turn to jazz. That was the music I liked.
What I think I love about it is that they were limited by technology. They couldn’t make things perfect. I don’t like things that are perfect, because I don’t think they represent life. It’s not a good refection of feeling, because feelings are imperfect. If you go as far back as the 20’s and 30’s where it was even more restrictive, there’s a certain quality that really resonates with me. If you’re flat, then you’re flat. That’s the recording, and it’s going into history like that. I like that a lot.
When you’re creating your albums – like your latest work – even though it’s an instrumental it’s still structural. It’s still a conceptual piece of work. What is your process when you’re putting your album together?
That was always a really important part of music. I wanted to make sure I preserved the storytelling element, because that is my background. I think there’s a part of me that feels I might not even be a musician, that I’m more of a lost artist. I think it’s my job to maybe not make people feel good.
I think a lot of musicians look at things and expect reactions. I don’t think that’s why people listen to my music. I think people have questions when they come to my music and looking for even more questions. So I try to create a scenario where we can ask those. I always try to come up with a concept first, and those usually come pretty organically from me brainstorming or taking parts of my life. They end up being more autobiographical than I ever mean them to be, but all art does. It’s always a reflection of self whether you want it to be or not.
This most recent one is more personal. What I knew about this album going in is that I wanted it to be a very human project. I wanted to really reflect the nature of life, and to me the three most motivating factors in the human experience are love, death, and sex. Those are three concepts that I tried to hit, so it became this love story set at the end of the world.
I read you’re a big fan of film noir. Do you draw a lot from that genre of movies?
Yeah, I suppose I do. I think I’ve been placed in that genre because of the music that I sample and the vocals that I chop together. My stories are all from that era of radio which is another one of my big passions. I love Radio Theater and to be able to chop those up to tell my own story is really a big part of what I do. It is motivating if only to piece together that narrative. It does end up being cinematic. I think what we mean when we say something is “cinematic” is that it creates an environment. It creates a world. If that’s what people mean then that’s as big of a compliment as I can get, because that’s exactly what I set out to do.
How did you decide which tracks would have someone perform over them?
That’s an interesting question, because it kind of happens organically. I’ll mix something, and then I’m not sure it tells the story that I want to tell. I always bring in people that I really admire and that I think I would work well with. Originally, what I wanted to do was bring in my style of album where it’s mostly instrumental and a few features to make it feel like these people were coming in to tell a little story in the middle or maybe they’re even characters in the story. Some of those beats are meant to be more than just instrumentals. I guess I believe those will speak to me in that way.
Are there any artists that you haven’t worked with yet that you would like to hear over one of your tracks?
This guy named YC the Cynic out of New York. I’m a very big fan. I love what he’s doing. Doom is an artist that I grew up listening to. Then you have legends like Nas. I would love to make a track with Slick Rick. His storytelling is something I’ve always wanted to do. There are a lot of artists. That’s an endless well of an answer.
Have you begun working on your next project?
I have. That’s the funny thing about my music. I put as much work into the concept and making sure the message is received the way I want it due that I have a lot of time in between albums. So yeah, I’ve begun my next one. I’m hesitant to give away any details, because I want to make sure people absorb things one at a time. But it’s safe to say that I’m working on a couple more projects.
Follow L’Orange on Twitter @LOrangeMusic
L’Orange’s The Orchid Days will be available April 8 (digital) and April 15 (physical) via Mello Music Group.
Watch the trailer for The Orchid Days below.